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Connacht head into the lion’s den against resurgent Toulouse outfit




Connacht's Ultane Dillane, Denis Buckley and Robin Copeland are in the thick of the action against Nicholaas Janse Van Rensburg and Mikheil Nariashvili of Montpellier during Sunday's European Champions Cup tie at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

THESE are challenging times for Connacht. three big games, two against European rugby’s elite sides, Leinster thought them a lesson two weeks ago, Montpellier offered a chance at redemption which they took in stunning fashion and now another side in the category of Leinster, French champions Toulouse await.

This is another level for Connacht. They are visiting the Stade Ernest-Wallon on Saturday (kick off, 1pm Irish time) for the fourth time this decade, but this occasion is different than all the others. In 2012 when they lost bravely, in 2013 when they recorded one of the competition’s greatest ever upsets and even in 2016 when they lost by nine points after a strong effort, all of those games came during a period of transition for Toulouse.

Today, it’s a different tale. A stunning season last year saw them capture their first French Championship since 2012 losing just three games in 28 during the campaign. They reached the last four of the Champions Cup for good measure and this year they are looking to end a nine-year wait for more success in this competition. It would be a record breaking fifth tile, they feel it’s long overdue.

So into the lion’s den go Connacht. They are in good shape in the pool after the opening day win, safe in the knowledge that defeat of any kind on Saturday will not scupper their quarter final hopes with the back-to-back fixtures against Gloucester in just a few short week’s time, far more telling in terms of their ability to reach the last eight for the very first time.

Speaking of Gloucester, well, Toulouse went there last Friday night and won in impressive fashion ,overcoming the concession of two breakaway first half tries that gave the hosts a 17 point lead to end up winning by five, with 22 unanswered points in the second half. They managed 70% possession and territory in the game and the cherry and whites had to make three times as many tackles.

A worry for Connacht will be the Toulouse lineout which was perfect during the contest and managed to nab seven of Gloucester’s throw ins for good measure. That could be their target again at the weekend as they look to dominate at the set piece. That includes the scrum, where they are notably strong with Cyril Baillle and Charlie Faumuina internationally recognised as among the best in the world.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Covid could leave Galway City Council with €25m budget hole

Stephen Corrigan



Shop STreet this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council is facing into a “potential crisis scenario” with a forecasted €25 million black hole in its budget, unless the Government comes good on a promise to plug the gap left by Covid-19.

That’s according to City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath who told councillors this week that the commercial rates waiver introduced by Government and a drop in income from goods and services provided by the local authority could slash their forecast annual revenue by 25%.

Mr McGrath said the last Government, when it introduced the rates waiver for cash-strapped businesses in March, had committed to €260 million to be put aside to bolster local authority finances, but no detail of how that will be rolled out had been provided.

“We are hoping as part of the July stimulus package, the new Government will give us the detail we so desperately need,” he said.

“Our rates standing orders have been wiped out to the tune of 90%.”

Tourism was crucial to the economic success of Galway, he continued, with approximately 80% of city businesses reliant on tourists to stay afloat.

“We have the highest percentage dependency of any local authority on rates from the tourism and hospitality sector,” said Mr McGrath.

It was for that reason that the Executive was seeking councillors’ approval to free up €485,000 of the so-called ‘Marketing Sinking Fund’ to finance a raft of tourism initiatives aimed at boosting the local economy by attracting domestic tourists as Covid-related restrictions are eased, in what Mr McGrath referred to as “temporary internal borrowing”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, and more on the tourism promotion plans, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Seafront prom and new train station planned for Murrough

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A vision of a new urban district on GMIT lands at Murrough – including a seafront promenade and new train station – has been submitted to Government for funding approval.

Galway City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath has outlined a plan to ‘leverage’ land and resources of the third level institute to create a new East City Urban District.

Mr McGrath has included the plans in an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

The total value of the project would be €61 million, he said, which values the land at Murrough at about €14 million.

“We are seeking URDF investment to activate these sites as catalysts to boost population and economic output for the city and region,” Mr McGrath told city councillors.

He said that by leveraging the lands at GMIT, the Council was delivering on a target in the National Planning Framework 2040, which states there should be “special focus on capitalising on the potential of underutilised and publicly owned and centrally located sites”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Plans to double size of Galway City student complex

Enda Cunningham



A computer-generated image of how the new Cúirt na Coiribe would look.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The investment fund which owns the Cúirt na Coiribe student accommodation complex on the Headford Road is planning to more than double the number of bed spaces there to 920.

Exeter Property Group, one of the biggest property investment groups in the world, has applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission to demolish a two-storey building to the front of the development and to remove the existing fifth floor attic level from the next block.

The proposal involves extending upwards and outwards to create a total of 920 bed spaces in 868 bedrooms in a single building with nine linked blocks ranging from two to six storeys.

The project includes a gym/fitness studio in the basement, a games room, library/study spaces, café/restaurant and lounge spaces.

There will be 59 carparking spaces and 656 cycle spaces included. A total of 398 of the 405 existing bed spaces will be retained.

It is proposed that the existing bed spaces will retain their original planning permission which allows for short-stay lets throughout the year, and the additional 515 spaces would only be permitted to be used as short-stay lets during the summer months.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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